U.S. v. Coloian, No. 06-1357. The defendant in a criminal case was convicted. A few years later he moved for expungement of his “criminal record.” The District Court held that 1) it had jurisdiction, and the inherent authority to grant this relief, but it wasn’t warranted; the first holds that 2) it lacked jurisdiction. You can keep reading.
Now, I know what you are thinking. The defendant should have been richer, so that he would not have gotten himself into trouble in the First place. But the defendant was the “attorney and former Chief of Staff for the mayor of Providence.” He got caught up in one of the corruption scandals in Rhode Island.
So, Coloian suggested, [on equitable grounds] that he was different from other acquitted defendants in that he was a "practicing attorney" and "a member of the business community," and as such, a criminal record was particularly damaging because character and reputation are of particular importance in his chosen career.
The First acknowledges that under its own caselaw, Prou v. United States, 199 F.3d 37, 45 (1st Cir. 1999), once subject matter jurisdiction attaches, “courts may exceed their authority or otherwise err without loss of jurisdiction.” I am thinking about KPMG (see our coverage here and here). Citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375 (1994), the First holds that asserting power to order such expungement “...could not be said to serve the first purpose of ancillary jurisdiction.” Got it? Because expunging its own records doesn’t relate to its performance of its task, it lacks ancillary jurisdiction to do so. The court does acknowledge a split in this area.
Therefore, the law remains that federal prosecutors can bring all sorts of charges against people, and even if acquitted, the courts are absolutely powerless to offer the person a clean reputation in terms of their own records. Hell, a prosecutor could even charge someone with someone with something that 1) has no factual basis; 2) is not a crime; and 3) is outside the court’s jurisdiction (e.g. conjuring Satan in Canada), and even if it was dismissed there would no way to bring the defendant back to square one.
I could understand if they ruled on equitable grounds, but this essentially means that courts are bending to the will of the executive. Since the government argues that they can still increase sentences based on acquitted conduct, the judges of the First Circuit have today held that nothing prevents the government from filing frivolous charges against someone that is later acquitted by a jury, only to have those charges raised against them again. These people are tainted for life, and the First has ceded the this part of the process of “justice” to the executive.